Friday, January 20, 2012
Making Christian War and Peace At the Same Time
"Good apologetics involves 'speaking the truth in love' (Eph 4:15)." ~ William Lane Craig
I began my previous post by quoting Dr. Craig to the effect that Christians should "prepare for war" against non-believers by steeping themselves and their children in sound arguments for their faith and against criticisms thereof. And I think I have to agree that if one is going to be Christian, one should know a fair amount about essential Christian teachings and be able to defend them effectively and not merely count on simple emotion and devotion to carry one through the temptations and trials of life. After all, Christians in general and Dr. Craig in particular believe that the posthumous fate of one's immortal soul depends on whether one loves and obeys God in this life, and surely most of us need all the intellectual as well as emotional and social support we can to fulfill this lofty requirement.
Furthermore, it makes perfect sense for Christians who want their children to go to heaven rather than hell to give them all the intellectual as well as other kinds of support they can to keep them strong in their faith and obedience to God. Thus, as Dr. Craig says, it would be grossly irresponsible for a Christian who believes this way not to render that support.
Yet, I wonder if and where parents should draw the line between sound and suitable teaching that enhances a child's religious knowledge but preserves and promotes her autonomy on the one hand and forceful indoctrination that interferes with a child's ability to make up his own mind about religion on the other. I'm concerned that parents who vigorously ground their children, especially their minor children, in apologetics may be crossing the line from acceptable teaching into unacceptable indoctrination.
I also wonder about how to reconcile Craig's talk of Christians going to apologetical "war" with non-believing individuals and with a culture increasingly hostile to believers and his following statement: "We should be gentle and respectful. Apologetics is also not the art of making somebody else sorry that you're a Christian! We can present a defense of the Christian faith without becoming defensive. We can present arguments for the Christian faith without becoming argumentative."
When I think of war, I decidedly don't think of people respectfully reasoning together, and I suspect that many people who try to wage war against non-belief with respectful argument fail miserably at the latter, despite Dr. Craig's observation that "the better my arguments, the less argumentative I am. The better my defense, the less defensive I am. If you have good reasons for what you believe and know the answers to the unbeliever's questions or objections, there's just no reason to get hot under the collar. Instead, you'll find yourself calm and confident when you're under attack, because you know you have the answers."
Yet, I have to say that I have great respect for Christians who engage non-believers such as myself with respectful, calm, and reasoned argument, and I surmise that if more Christians were able to do this, it would place their faith in a much more appealing light and undoubtedly lead more non-believers to embrace it.
In my next blogpost, I want to briefly address Dr. Craig's reasons for why apologetics is important.